en find women boxers a bit hard to get their heads round, don’t they?’ ponders Margi Clarke. ‘The ﬁrst thing they say is ‘worrabout the tits, eh?’ as though that was somehow a problem. But it’s the same for a football player if he misses the ball and does the splits. Doesn’t he land on his tits, his balls, like?’
Hmm, one for our sports correspondent I reckon, but then Margi probably knows more about the world of puffed-up mittens and boots with very long laces than I ever will. Under the watchful eye of brother and first-time director Frank Clarke, who wrote the script specially for her, Margi’s just completed Blonde Fist, the rumbustious tale of Kirkby mum Ronnie O’Dowd whose winning way with a knuckle sandwich gets her into and out of a mountain of trouble.
Tussling with the local DHSS office, she ends up in a tough women’s prison but springs an escape to make it with her small son to New York and the search for estranged ne’er-do-well dad, played with scuzzball relish by Ken Hutchison. Aided and abetted by Carroll Baby Doll Baker’s effervescent waitress, father and daughter get together for the first time in many years. Yet the money to get back to Liverpool is none too easy to come by and Ronnie finds herself slugging it out in a swish nightclub where women’s boxing bouts are put on to entertain the wealthy clientele. Not only fighting for a substantial purse , now she’s battling to keep a hold on everything that matters to her in life: her home and her family.
Feisty and emotive stuff it is too. Shot on a budget of only £600,000, Blonde Fist burns with the same kind of proud independence that made the Clarkes’ earlier Letter to Brezhnev such a boot in the bollocks to a class-haunted British ﬁlm industry overburdened by genteel literary adaptations and linen-clad laments for the loss of empire. Rough and ready in places it certainly might be , but there’s an energy of
F E S T l V A l EPREVIEWE
Opening this year’s 45th Edinburgh International Film Festival is Blonde Fist, a defiant Scouse comedy from the Letter to Brezhnev team, starring the one and only Margi Clarke as a battling mum who turns to the boxing ring to keep her family together. Trevor Johnston gingerly steps between the ropes to go fifteen rounds with the Peroxide Bombshell herself and finds her rapid repartee every bit as devastating as her killer right hook.
BIFF, BANG, Pow:
expression, a determination to take on all the odds, that connects with the experience and spirit of the Kirkbys of this world.
‘In a way I don’t give two flying fucks whether they attack it or not when it comes out,’ reflects Margi with the characteristic vigour that’s at the heart of her knock’em dead screen presence, ‘because here was a bunch of Scallies with no credentials and we did it! I’m really proud of it. It’s good for what it is, a little British movie, and it should be supported. I’m waiting for the day that the Scallies in Glasgow pull one off, or the Scallies in Belfast, and every city in Britain.
i} In a way, I don’t
give two flying tucks whether they
attack it or not when
" it comes out-
, because there was
‘ a bunch ot scallies
with no credentials
and we did it.
Everyone should be having a go, because we did it with Brezhnev and we did it again here. We’ve proved that if you get up off your arse and get out there, it can be done.’
In person, Margi’s every bit as handy with the gob as the characters she’s best known for: Brezhnev quicksilver goodtime gal Elaine, and Queenie, the life and soul of the factory ﬂoor in Making Out on the Beeb. As we talk, we’re the last people left in the caff at the BBC’s North Acton rehearsal studios, where Margi and the rest of the cast are mid-way through a third series. ‘It’s off its cake, this one, you know. I mean, I’m full of admiration for what the writers are taking on here, ’cos it’s like Twin Peaks. I won’t say too much, but I have a baby and I turn out to be a better mother than everyone expects.’
She’s all maternal too in Blonde Fist but to go with the usual acid wit, here she’s got a
hell ofa punch on her. At times brother Frank’s attentive camera brings out the slowburning (ahem) beauty of her pale, befreckled skin and those rather sculpted cheekbones‘, but as she biffs seven shades out of anyone who gets in her way, you’d be forgiven for wondering whether all the good maidens of Kirkby are quite so handy with their mitts.
‘Some men do tend to be a bit frightened of me,’ she admits, ‘but they should remember that I’m only playing a part. I‘m only a boxer under the wicked guise ofillusion. Still. I can’t complain, I love playing strong roles and Blonde Fist is great like that, because
18 The List 9— 15 August 1991